‘This was undoubtedly an unlawful killing,’ Jessie Earl’s family raise concerns of police

‘This was undoubtedly an unlawful killing,’ Jessie Earl’s family raise concerns of police

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The legal team of Jessie Earl’s family has said they believe the 22-year-old Eastbourne student’s death was an unlawful killing.

The new inquest, which has been held at Eastbourne Town Hall over the last two days (May 10-11), had been ordered back in December after the original hearing into the student’s death recorded an open verdict.

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Jessie was 22 when she went missing in 1980 and her remains were found in dense shrubland at Beachy Head nine years later.

During the inquest Stephen Kamlish QC, who has been representing the Earl family, said, “This was undoubtedly an unlawful killing.

“The evidence doesn’t show that she perhaps banged her head.”

The family’s legal team has also suggested that the most likely cause of death is strangulation or asphyxiation while it is ‘possible’ that Jessie was sexually assaulted.

During the second day of the inquest a number of questions were raised of Sussex Police and its handling of the investigation.

The family’s legal team had raised concerns over a bra, which is believed to be Jessie’s, which cannot be located.

The fact that a new inquest is only now being conducted was also a source of frustration for the Earl family.

Mr Kamlish said, “It is just simply not right to say that Sussex Police in general terms have been as supportive as they might.

“Essentially [for] the last 30 years of their lives they [the family] have been concerned with making this right when they have been told that they cannot.”

Jessie’s parents Valerie and John had said they were originally told the original inquest’s verdict could not be quashed.

East Sussex coroner James Healy-Pratt said, “The family have had to fight to get certain documentation.

“The family has not had due disclosure in a timely fashion.”

In regards to the bra, investigating officer Pauline Sweeney said the item of clothing, which was found an inch underground by Jessie’s remains, ‘possibly’ wasn’t retained because the incident was not originally seen as a murder.

She added, “It definitely should have been retained.”

The inquest heard how Sussex Police have compared the DNA from Jessie’s remains, including to that of serial killer Peter Tobin, but have found no matches.

Retired detective superintendent Emma Heater said, “I think she was a victim of crime.

“She most likely would have died somewhere near the Downs. I cannot say if it was someone who was known to her.

“There had to have been third-party involvement.”

Former detective superintendent Heater was also asked if Jessie had died due to asphyxiation.

She said, “We don’t know if there was strangulation, if it was an injury.”

The former detective superintendent also said Sussex Police had twice gone to a coroner about the potential of a new inquest but were told there was not sufficient evidence.

Mr Healy-Pratt said he will record his verdict tomorrow morning (Thursday, May 12).